Croatian President Backs Delay to Extended Rights for Vukovar Serbs

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said on Thursday that she supports Vukovar's mayor, Ivan Penava, who has claimed that the extension of Serb minority rights in the town would harm ethnic relations - despite a Constitutional Court ruling saying this must be done soon.

Penava's statement came after the Constitutional Court ruled that the use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic script for official purposes should be extended in Vukovar, which was besieged and devastated by Serbian forces in 1991, but now has a sizeable Serb minority.

After a meeting with Penava in Zagreb on Thursday, Grabar Kitarovic's office said that the president believes that the necessary preconditions for "extending special rights" have been yet not met, although the changes should not be delayed for too long.

Grabar Kitarovic said that Penava's opinion cannot be seen as disrespect for the decision of the Constitutional Court.

"I do not want separation or conflict between Croats and Serbs, but I am calling for patience and consideration, which implies accepting the fact that Vukovar is tending its wounds," she said.

Grabar Kitarovic's office also said that she "finds it extremely important to provide support to mayor Penava and the citizens of Vukovar who have suffered injustice for more than a quarter of a century due to the inexplicably slow and inefficient actions of institutions".

Her comment was a reference to unhappiness in Vukovar about the slow pace of prosecuting Serbs who committed war crimes in the town. Grabar Kitarovic argued that this "also cannot be delayed indefinitely".

According to a Constitutional Court decision on July 2, Vukovar city councillors from the Serb ethnic minority should have be given the same conditions as councillors of...

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